Former Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth L. Hatch III will not face a second trial on 20 felony counts of sexual abuse and giving drugs to minors, but is unlikely to work in law enforcement again under the terms of a plea deal reached Friday, Jan. 26.
Hatch, 47, of Whitefield, pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of providing a place for minors to consume alcohol in exchange for the dismissal of the 20 felony counts: two counts of class B unlawful sexual contact, 10 counts of class C sexual abuse of minors, seven counts of class C aggravated furnishing in schedule Z drugs (marijuana), and one count of class C unlawful sexual contact.
Hatch entered the plea to the misdemeanor – filed the day before in Lincoln County Superior Court – before Maine Superior Court Justice William R. Stokes in Knox County Superior Court.
Stokes dismissed the 20 counts with prejudice, meaning Hatch cannot be tried on them again, and assessed the mandatory $1,000 fine.
Assistant Attorney General John Risler, the prosecutor, asked for a 10-day suspended sentence, but Stokes said that was not an option and did not sentence Hatch to any jail time.
In November, jurors in Kennebec County found Hatch not guilty of one count each of sexual abuse of a minor and furnishing marijuana to a minor, but deadlocked on the other 20 charges.
Hatch had been accused of sexually abusing three girls under the age of 16, sometimes in his cruiser while on duty; abusing one of the girls when she was 6; and providing marijuana to one of the girls.
“He agreed to accept the misdemeanor for furnishing a place for minors to consume alcohol because he agreed to let his kids drink alcohol on his property, and obviously he knew other kids were there,” Hatch’s attorney, Richard Elliott, said Thursday, Jan. 25. “He thought it would be safer to do it on his property than for them to be out driving around.”
Two of the three girls named as victims in the case told Stokes they were angry and disappointed about the resolution of the case. But Stokes said the jury was “excellent” and had been “very severe(ly) deadlocked.” He said a new trial would have been “very difficult.”
Because Hatch has been convicted of a misdemeanor, he will lose his certification from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.
Risler said following the sentencing that the likelihood of convincing another jury of guilt beyond a possible doubt was small.
“The option I had to protect the people of Maine was to remove his ability to serve in law enforcement,” Risler said. “When he loses his certification from the criminal justice academy, it’s very unlikely he would ever be able to serve in law enforcement outside of Maine (either).”
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills released a statement about the case after the hearing.
“We support the victims, these brave survivors. We believe them,” Mills said. “Unfortunately, the jury did not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Hatch was guilty of these crimes. Fortunately, he will never work in law enforcement again.
“Now we must all work harder than ever to prevent this conduct from occurring in the first place. We must change the culture so that no one feels afraid to speak up, no one is coerced or intimidated into having sex without consent, and no one feels they can use a position of power or authority to prey on others who are younger or less powerful than they.
“We applaud the women in this case for speaking up and only regret that the jury did not convict Mr. Hatch and that significant legal issues prevented a retrial.”